CNET reviews Microsoft Zune: ‘lack of format support will estrange some seasoned users’

“By now, we all know the basics of the Zune: it’s a 30GB MP3 player with a photo- and video-friendly 3-inch (4:3) screen, and it will cost $249. It runs on a customized version of Portable Media Center software (Windows CE-based) and features the same intuitive twist-navigation as players such as the Toshiba Gigabeat S,” CNET reviews reports. “The Microsoft Zune can hold its own as a portable media player, and the sharing feature is definitely cool. But the lack of format support will estrange some seasoned users.”

“The Zune may be a bit thicker than the 30GB iPod, but it feels right at home in the hand. In my opinion, it’s a nice size and weight–neither too thin to hold nor too big to pocket, though others in the office say it’s bulky and have even compared it to a prototype,” CNET reviews reports. “The unit will playback MP3, protected WMA (the Zune-kind only), and unprotected AAC. No native WAV or WMA Lossless playback. If you have $200 worth of Wal-Mart tracks, you’re in trouble. (You’ll have to burn and rip, or find some way to convert).”

“Video support is worse. There is no video content available for purchase on the Zune Marketplace at launch. (It will, however, feature more than 2 million tracks, both a la carte and subscription.) It supports WMV natively–Zune software will convert MPEG-4 and H264 files to WMV–but it does not support DRMed video. So, no Amazon Unbox and no Vongo. The software will not support DivX or XviD either, so you’ll have to find a third-party conversion method. Too bad the video support is weak, since the 3-inch screen is nice, and the player controls are precise,” CNET reviews reports.

“Sharing content by using ad hoc Wi-Fi is pretty cool, although it is limited to sharing within a range of 30 feet, and you can’t share video. Microsoft stated that in open space, the range is closer to 40 and higher. It takes about two seconds to find anyone in range,” CNET reviews reports. “It takes about 10 seconds to transfer a song. Longer songs can take up to 15 seconds. Since you can play a song three times or within three days, you might be wondering what happens if you play a part of the song. A ‘play’ equals at least one minute or half the song, whichever comes first.”

“As reported earlier, battery life is rated for 14 hours of audio playback. With Wi-Fi turned on (and no sharing), battery life decreases to about 13 hours. No telling at this point what active sharing will do to battery life,” CNET reviews reports. “Overall, the Zune is a well-designed portable media device with good playback performance, a snappy processor, and an excellent interface. Wi-Fi sharing worked well, but prospective owners should know that its format support, especially for videos, is limited.”

Full review here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Island Girl” for the heads up.]

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30 Comments

  1. I think that’s the only somewhat-positive article I’ve read so far that sounded at all genuine. Seems that’s the best that honesty can do for Microsoft.

    “Launched with not so much a bang as a squirt…”

    -c

    MW: ‘million’ (dollar mistake)

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